WHEELING - Wheeling Park is headed back to the West Virginia State Girls' Basketball Tournament for the third straight season and according to North Marion coach Michael Parrish, the Patriots are going down to Charleston as one of the favorites.
''They have guards that can shoot and a big girl inside that plays smart so I think they have a real good shot at winning it all,'' Parrish said.
Parrish should have a good idea what it takes to win the big dance as his Huskies have won the last three Class AAA crowns.
PHOTO BY JOSH STROPE
Wheeling Park’s Emily Puskarich, left, pressures North Marion’s Cassady Rodriguez during their game Tuesday night in Wheeling.
That run came to an end Tuesday when Wheeling Park trounced North Marion, 73-34, in the Region One co-Final at the Palace on the Hill.
Emily Puskarich opened the game with a 3-pointer and it was all Patriots (21-4) from there.
Wheeling Park started the game on a 19-0 run and nearly kept North Marion off the board in the first 8 minutes. Andrea Nicholas hit the back end of a two-shot foul with 1.2 seconds left to avoid the first-quarter shutout.
''You come into these games and you just don't know what to expect, especially when you've played a team twice'' Wheeling Park coach Meredith Dailer said. ''Our kids came ready to play and that was very clear.
''We were expecting some 2-3 zone and they brought more pressure than we had anticipated. We knew they had some guards that could really shoot the ball so we wanted to contest those kinds of things. Our kids really responded to the scouting report we had.''
Haley Robb hit three 3-pointers in the second quarter - she had four in the game and finished with 13 points - as Wheeling Park went into halftime with a 33-7 lead.
When North Marion (14-11) finally broke double-digits, Wheeling Park was in front 42-11 and Dailer had already emptied her bench.
Every one for the Patriots played and scored, led by Puskarich with 22 points. Like Robb, she also hit four 3-pointers. Cassady Rodriguez paced the Huskies with seven points.
''Wheeling Park put on a clinic and we didn't show up to play,'' Parrish said. ''(The bad start) was critical. We came down and threw the ball everywhere. Our shots weren't even hitting the rim. They didn't come out to pressure us and we still had 10 turnovers in the first quarter. Our big girls were posting up, our guards weren't penetrating and our shots wouldn't fall.''
Dailer expects Wheeling Park to earn either a No. 3 or No. 4 seed when the pairings are announced later this week.
Wheeling Park has been bounced in the first round in each of its past two appearances in Charleston so as happy as Dailer and her team is to make the trek south, just being part of the field isn't a goal it is crossing off the list.
''The state championship is the goal,'' Dailer said. ''This gets us one step closer, but we have a couple more games to win.''